Windows of the Soul
Erestor closed the last of the leather-bound journals and placed it in a box alongside numerous others. His eyes tracked the paths of the various Elves who went about gathering evidence in Garafon's room, but Erestor's brooding thoughts were on what he had just finished reading. Gildor carried out a sewing basket, and the object made Erestor contemplate further what he had read of Garafon's relationship with his naneth.
Her name was Nordithen, Erestor learned from the worn books. She was a Telerin elleth wedded to a Noldorin mate, torn between devotion to her blood kin in Alqualondë and the duty of her bond with spouse and child. From what Erestor learned from Garafon's writing, in the end, she had chosen to forsake the responsibility of motherhood and devote her allegiance to the peoples of her youth.
Garafon's journals told heart-breaking tales of a small Elfling who watched as his Nana left him again and again, often for years at a time, to make the journey from her home among the Noldor of Tirion to the peaceful harbors of Swanhaven, preferring to spend time with her family. Each separation lasted for a greater period, and each return was greeted with arguments and accusations hurled by her husband against "that kind".
Garafon's Ada sounded like a bitter Elf, his mother beautiful but cold, caring more for jewels and finery than her own offspring. Erestor could only guess the impact of such an environment on a small Elfling. That Garafon loved his naneth greatly was evident in his writings; his description of the Telerin elleth was worshipful, as though Nordithen was one of the Valier incarnate, but that love turned to something so ugly, so destructive that it destroyed Garafon.
Erestor's stomach rolled as he looked down at the scrap of cloth one of the guards had shown him. Erestor tore his eyes away from the gruesome discovery, his gaze lifting to the open window, nostrils flaring as he struggled to catch the scent of fresh air. The hours he had spent in this room were wearing heavily on him. His neck ached, and the wounds on his hands and knees from the broken glass stung, but he stubbornly refused to allow Gildor and Dórion to take over... not quite yet. He wanted – no, he *needed* to understand.
Had the Kinslayings been the turning point for Garafon? The horror of Elf killing Elf, then the sound of his beloved Nana's voice denouncing his Ada, his Noldor kin, and then finally himself? Seeing her run from them, as if her husband and child were personally responsible for the screams and the blood flowing below them. Once more, she chose her kin over her own son.
Had that been the final straw? Garafon had followed after his naneth, pleading with her to come back, but Nordithen had snapped, and in blazing anger, had slapped him hard, screaming "murderer" in his face, hurling epithets of hatred against the Noldor.
Was that, then, the moment when Garafon's mind turned to shadow? He had written so dispassionately about how he had placed his hands around his mother's throat. How amid the screams and mayhem, no one noticed as he strangled her to death. He wrote of her beautiful eyes, and how they stared at him in horror and denial, until finally their light was extinguished. He confesses that he left her lying there on the quay, amongst the slain Teleri.
Renouncing his Telerin heritage, Garafon followed his father across the Ice with Fëanor's people. The journal entries that followed only spoke of the typical trials of a youthful Elf, struggling to make a place in the world. He and his Ada settled in the mountains of Arda among their Noldorin kin, where Garafon studied the art of healing. Garafon's father was slain in a skirmish with Orcs. Eventually Garafon, orphaned, came to settle in Lindon, and joined Gil-galad's staff as a healer. The pages upon pages of neat writing were notable only for their absence of any further mention of Nordithen. It was as though Garafon put the memories out of his mind. Buried them deeply in his subconscious, more likely, forcibly repressed for many years, until something happened that set the current events in motion.
Erestor rose and wandered toward the open window. He passed the dresser and stopped, looking down at the mortar, pestle, and the small phial of Nightshade. The journals told how the first two ellith sought out a healer for various reasons. The first had a backache, and the second victim had trouble sleeping. Each of the victims placed their trust in Garafon, confided in him, shared woes and histories. Bound, or so they thought, by common blood, and without question accepted the tonic he prepared for them. But it was odd that nothing in any of the papers Erestor found made a reference to the third victim, the visiting elleth from Lórien. There was no indication how or why Garafon targeted Arvellas.
But it had started with Brennil. Garafon had feelings for her, had approached her, and had been rejected. Brennil's resemblance to the sketches of Garafon's naneth was uncanny. Erestor could only induce that had been the stressor that had brought all Garafon's suppressed fury to the surface. One more Telerin elleth rejecting him, just like his mother had, time and time again.
Gildor's inspection of the chambers revealed two formal gowns wrapped in white linen, hidden away in a niche of Garafon's closet. The gowns resembled the style of the robes the victims were dressed in when their bodies were found. The younger Noldo was excited by the discovery and immediately dispatched one of Gil-galad's guards to begin questioning Lindon's dressmakers, but Erestor knew in his heart that the search would be futile. It was unlikely the origins of the gowns would ever be known – another question left unanswered.
Erestor turned away from the window, his eyes falling on the ghastly remnants of two pairs of blue eyes. The searchers had discovered the remains hidden in a wooden box next to the journals. The missing third set had caused some confusion – that was, until the cloth with its macabre residue of tissue and jelly was found. Erestor could only guess that Garafon, like many others was superstitious. Did he believe, in his madness, that the eyes – the windows of the soul – captured the last vision they saw before death, retained it, recording their killer? Was recognition what Garafon had finally seen in his naneth's eyes, before she died? Garafon would have wanted to hold on to that, something he had felt she denied him all his life. But definite answers could never be found; they died along with Garafon on the cold, wet pavement.
It was time to leave this room. Erestor felt dirty, contaminated by the anger that still could be felt, the shadow of evil that hung in the room, which even the freshest air from the open window could not dispel. He left the others to their inventories.
Gildor fell into step next to him as Erestor headed through the quiet halls to the healing wing. It had only been through sheer will that he had left Glorfindel's side in the early hours of the morning. The Elda had not awakened yet from his poisoning, though Elrond assured Erestor that he would in due course, once his body recovered from the trauma.
Gildor glanced with concern at Erestor's pale face. Gently, he fingered the scratches on the older Elf's throat. "Are you all right, Erestor?"
Erestor gave Gildor a tight-lipped smile and shook his head, not trusting his voice. No, he was not all right. He would not be all right, not until Glorfindel awoke.
The rest of the walk was made in silence, as Gildor stayed by his superior's side. He could see how very worried Erestor was about the blond. It had amazed him to discover Erestor almost crazed, clutching Glorfindel's limp form as though someone was trying to tear the Elda from Erestor's arms. Gildor had never seen Erestor so possessive or so enthralled over another Elf. With only a small bit of residual hurt, he acknowledged that included him.
They stopped at the door way to Glorfindel's room, watching through the open portal as Elrond checked the Elda's condition once more. Erestor waited until Elrond rose and joined them in the doorway before speaking. "Any change?" he whispered, his eyes roving over the still form with its bandaged throat and eyes glazed unseeingly at the ceiling.
Elrond smiled kindly and laid a reassuring hand on Erestor's arm. "The effects of the drug are wearing off. He should wake soon, Erestor." Elrond sighed, and the smile left his face. "I feel responsible for this," the half-Elf confessed.
Erestor reluctantly tore his gaze away from the sleeping blond. He frowned at Elrond. "Responsible, how?" he asked.
Elrond looked guiltily toward the bed, his gray eyes soft and sad. "I instructed Garafon to prepare a sleeping tonic for Glorfindel."
"Did you order him to deliver it?" Gildor asked, and Erestor nodded with a brief, proud smile at his apprentice.
Elrond shook his head. "No, I did not. But if he went to Glorfindel and told him it was the tonic I promised that would help to rid him of nightmares, it would make sense that Glorfindel would have trusted him, and taken the potion. Of course, Glorfindel would not know the concoction did not contain a mild sleeping herb, but the deadly Nightshade instead." Elrond sighed heavily and rubbed a hand across his weary face. "I must go and report to the King. Please inform me when Glorfindel wakes." Elrond left Gildor and Erestor alone, both looking at the sleeping Elda, but the gaze of one was strained with much more than simple concern.
Gildor glanced once at Erestor's face, seeing clearly written in the drawn features the desire to be alone with the Elda. He briefly squeezed Erestor's shoulder. Erestor gave the younger Elf a wan smile of gratitude before he too left the pair alone, and pulled the door closed behind him.
Erestor pulled a chair up to the bed and sat down next to Glorfindel. He picked up one of the blond's hands, holding it tightly clasped between his own bandaged palms. Placing a lingering kiss across Glorfindel's knuckles, Erestor waited in silence for the blond to wake.
The candles had long burned down to stubs when Erestor was roused from an uneasy doze by the faint rustle of sheets shifting on the bed. He glanced down into Glorfindel's blue eyes, which were no longer clouded by sleep. "You are awake," Erestor whispered in relief, unable to keep the emotion from his voice. He squeezed the blond's hand tighter and fought back the prickle of tears that threatened to fall.
Glorfindel blinked at Erestor, awake but still groggy from the remnants of poisoning and his deep, restorative sleep and trying to process all that had happened to him. His gaze became panicky and his breathing sped up as he tried to rise, his head thrashing as he frantically scanned the room. Erestor knew what the Elda was searching for, and he gently urged Glorfindel to lie back down. "It is all right now, " he whispered, running a soothing hand through Glorfindel's tawny hair. "He is dead, Glorfindel. He cannot hurt you again."
Glorfindel searched Erestor's dark eyes and saw the truth. He felt safe as the raven-haired Elf gathered him into an embrace. He hugged Erestor back as tightly as his weary body would allow. "Thank you," Glorfindel murmured hoarsely into Erestor's ear.
"Do not try to speak," Erestor admonished. "Your vocal cords are damaged; you must rest your voice." He smiled gently and pulled away, placing a kiss upon Glorfindel's lips. He looked deep into those vulnerable, expressive blue eyes, eyes that had captured his soul.
"I had no choice," he whispered. "When I saw *his* hands about your throat and saw you crumple lifeless to the floor, I thought my heart would stop. I do not pretend to comprehend all that has ensued, least of all what has happened between us. These feelings are new and frightening to me. But what I do know is that if Mandos had claimed you once more, I would have followed."